Why are ad agencies ignoring the strongest economy in the world?
By WGSN Insider

Campaigns that are gender neutral or not aimed at women are idiotic, says Bec Brideson, Director of marketing to women Melbourne agency Venus, on the trick being missed in advertising now

Aug 25, 2015
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In case you missed the last decade, women control over 80% of discretionary spending and are the world’s fastest growing consumer economy. Last year, this broad consumer segment was predicted to be worth $28 trillion dollars.

Women are earning, spending and influencing consumer decisions at a faster rate than ever before. They influence 90% of new home purchases, 65% of new car purchases, and 80-85% of all household consumer goods. And yet 91% of women feel advertisers don’t engage with or understand their needs.

Many marketers accept female consumers are the ones with the spending power, but the problem is their internal processes and agencies are still using the same gender-neutral tools and methodology to build campaigns they used back in the last century.

The fact is the advertising industry is pulling out this dated toolkit to create marketing for today. The old toolkit that aspires to find a single-minded focus, developed to conquer, win-over and use guerrilla tactics to capture their share of the market. This combative win/lose strategic approach is a masculine world-view, and actually repels women.

In this day and age, all agencies should be utilising sharp, clever and informed female-centric strategies to win the hearts and open the wallets of the largest economy in the world, women.

But instead, we see a market swamped by gender-neutral creative messages lacking skill and nuance when it comes to persuading this demographic. It’s beyond comprehension our best-known brand campaigns aren’t actually talking to the world’s largest consumer.

There’s clearly a look, feel and language in marketing that appeals to men, and a different style that caters to the sensibilities of women. And yet the ad industry is creating generic work that sits in the gender-neutral territory, which is actually causing a collective moan of discontentment from women.

The problem is often agencies think this topic belongs in the sexism debate and the three words “marketing-to-women” stirs up deep-seated fears about change.

But marketing to women has got nothing to do with sexism, and everything to do with a mammoth missed economic opportunity.

My marketing to women agency, Venus, has enjoyed great success, been highly profitable and sustained strong growth. But still we have struggled for acceptance in the industry.

Sure, we’ve attracted the obvious categories – fashion, feminine hygiene and FMCG, which already understand that speaking to women is a sensitive balance of science and art. But the categories we’ve failed to get into are the categories that need us the most – health, finance, automotive and retail.

Marketing to women agencies like Venus have reinvented the toolkit, developing ways to reach deeper insights with the female consumer. We’ve created strategic excellence with new methodologies that work.

So does your agency connect with the largest, wealthiest target market in the world? Do they actually practice marketing to women? Or is it just a bit of (glossy pink) lip service?

The Boston Consulting Group study declared marketers are failing to meet or communicate to women’s needs, with clumsy sales and marketing cited as contributing factors. It points out succeeding in the female economy will require skill, nuance, investment and engagement.

Ernst and Young’s report “Scaling Up” reveals women are at the tipping point of the female economy, and changes in the approach to marketing are inevitable.

So why isn’t the advertising industry following us?

Look at it this way, if you knew that 80% of your customers used mobile phones, you would want to make sure you knew everything you possibly could about the mobile phone, yes? So, if you knew that 80% of your customers were women, wouldn’t you want to make sure you knew absolutely everything you could about women?

The facts are all here, and continuing to ignore women is “client denial”. It’s time the advertising world woke up and changed the behaviours of an out dated industry.

The upside? An exceptional bottom line.

Like what you just read? Follow Bec on Twitter.

CAMPAIGNS, EXPLAINED: The looks, the themes, how they’re created and why. Our team of market intelligence experts analyse every detail, every season. Sound good? Join WGSN.

  • B

    They are not ignoring the strongest economy in the world, they are targeting women who don’t identify themselves as ‘pink’. This is clever advertising technique to attract the ‘different’ women (strong, independent, individual … the ‘feminist’ who wants to break the stereotype that women are ‘pink’. Pink women are so yesterday … today women are colourless or multicolour. The ad agencies know what they are doing … and women will buy the products to make the statement that they are


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